Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Boys Who Sew

l to r Trevor Pitt, David Littler, Stewart Easton, Twiggy and Mr X Stitch
Great evening last night at the MAC attending In Conversation with Boys Who Sew hosted by Birmingham based artist and curator Trevor Pitt of The Knitting Salon and the famed knitted benches and who posed questions to the four unlikely lad stitchers.

First up was Coventry born artist Stewart Easton who currently has an exhibition of embroidered folk art at the MAC called Four Tragic Tales, again curated by Trevor Pitt.  Stewart only started sewing 2 1/2 years ago while researching Folk Art as part of his MA in Illustration and Animation. Inspired by the books of Oliver Postgate and the poetry of Sir John Betjeman instead of drawing images for his animation module he began embroidering.  Stewart embroiders fairy story based narratives often in a long horizontal panel giving the feeling of movement and time of one long image.   He says of stitching that it is very contemplative and slows things down instead of the fast moving pace of traditional animation.
 Next boy stitcher was Twiggy Birmingham a drag artist who for the last 20 years has designed and stitched all his own costumes with fabics sourced entirely from the Birmingham Rag Market and using only 3 basic patterns. 

Mr X Stitch aka Jamie Chalmers has been stitching for 10 years and his interest in stitching began after buying a cross stitch kit for something to do on a long flight to Canada.  He liked the idea that somebody as large as himself, with a bald head and beard was capable of creating something so delicate. He creates the designs himself from a piece of software that converts pictures into Cross-Stitch charts as he found the traditional kits available of cottages and churches just a bit too twee.  Speaking of the popular trend at the moment of subversive cross-stitching he describes his own work as "less sweary and with more wit." He finds stitching meditative, creative, has the power of making and above all soothes the soul. 

Then finally David Littler artist, curator and DJ whose inspiration for stitching started in the Northern Soul clubs of Blackpool.  David got into stitching when after visiting the  V & A Museum he bought a book on Samplers. He is founder of artists' collective Sampler Culture Clash which brings together embroiderers aged from 60 - 85, poets, musicians and DJs and explores the connection between sound and embroidery emerging as performance art.

A really fabulous evening which only goes to demonstrate how absorbing and popular stitching and embroidery has become.  I felt a strong message radiating around the auditorium from both artists and audience that stitching is indeed an artform and that at last it is getting the recognition it so justly deserves.   Power to the needle!

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